How to design a book cover? 3 things first.

Whether you hire a professional designer or create your book cover yourself with minimal design experience, there are certain things you have to figure out in advance.

Monica Dube |

First things first, know the specifications of a book cover

Let’s clarify what a book cover for an ebook looks like. That’s a silly question, you would say, everybody knows what a book cover looks like! But for the purposes of this post, let’s quickly cover the basics. These are professional book cover designs:

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If you are thinking of print on demand or other print options, you are going to need a layout like the first example. For ebooks, it is a no-go: it simply wouldn’t fit in the allocated space for a cover. Imagine how this would look in a Kindle store next to other covers (it would be squashed.)

The second and third are 3D covers. Unfortunately, you can’t actually use a cover like this in any ebook store, but they look very good for marketing purposes. (3D covers of book bundles are, however, sometimes accepted. If you would like to learn how to create a 3D cover, check out this article.)

This is what an ebook cover should like. It has to be flat, in a portrait format, and be readable in thumbnail size.

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Book cover size

Know what resolution means before having a go at creating your own ebook cover. We cover sizes in great detail here, but let’s have a quick recap for those of you who don’t want to click.

We recommend a size of 1600✕2400 pixels: this is large enough to display well on all kinds of devices, just the right size to also easily embed it in your epub. (Please note that you don’t have to embed your cover when uploading to Amazon, but you’ll have to embed your cover when uploading anywhere else.)

Embedded covers can’t be over 4 megapixels for iBooks, but we actually recommend that the shorter side is not more than 800 pixels long. This would be large enough to display well on a tablet and doesn’t increase file size unnecessarily. Your embedded and separately uploaded cover should be the same, but you can use two different sizes of the same cover: a large resolution one to upload separately, and a smaller one to embed in the book.

Check out this detailed list of cover image requirements to ensure your covers get accepted by stores.

A quick note from PublishDrive: Did you know our FREE ebook converter can create an EPUB/MOBI file for you with a seamlessly incorporated cover image? Our converter will then create a beautiful ebook that looks great on all reading devices. To get started:

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Want to design a cover? 3 things first.

Now without further ado, don’t forget about these action items before designing your book cover.

1) Check covers in your genre on Amazon, preferably the bestseller list.

This is the most important step: you want readers to immediately know what they can expect. If you see covers like this, it is immediately clear that these are in the same category. They all use the same imagery: dark background, dark-haired man in suit or shirt, looking in the camera or just away from the camera.

The same goes for all fiction genres. Creating a book cover that is not in line with genre standards will result in unhappy readers who didn’t get what they expected. Not only that, but you likely won't get as many book sales as well.

2) Have a general idea of what you are looking for.

Start collecting book covers you like and save them on Pinterest or to your computer. Start taking notes. There are many little things that can decide whether you like a cover or not.

For example, some prefer if the face of the lead character is not shown on the cover – leaving it with more space for imagination. Others find their ideal model and roll with it.

3) Decide on your budget.

While nobody likes talking about finances, publishing a book is an investment, and self-publishing is an investment you have to make. You can, of course, get a good cover for free, but it is definitely worth paying for. The cover should catch the eye of your potential reader immediately.

But if this is your first book, it’s likely that you’ll have to go for a book cover on a budget. We understand that and do believe you can still get the most out of it.

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Checklist for creating a book cover for free

Once you’ve taken care of the prerequisites just mentioned in this article, you can move on to actually creating your book cover. Here is a simple checklist on how you can do it for free:

  1. Your title and your author name. There is no need to put anything on the cover other than the author’s name, the title, and the subtitle.
  2. A suitable image or images. These will be used as the main part of your cover. It is uncommon to create completely typographic covers unless the book is literary fiction.
  3. A genre-specific font. Serif or sans-serif?
  4. You can use an editing app, online service, or get a professional photo editing software.
  5. A feedback group. Just as you wouldn’t publish a book without getting somebody to read it first, you can’t publish a book without getting feedback on your cover either.

We share more about each item on the checklist here.

Self-publishing a book isn't always easy, but an amazing book cover can help you get it right.

To read more about ebook covers, check out more of our articles on this topic:

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